Regular Poem: Amazing Feats of Strength

3 Sep

thirty years as a professional ballerina
say it over again and think on it

that’s like those 60 year old firefighters
still putting on 75 pounds of gear and dragging a hose up 8 flights of steps

a specimen

let me see your muscles
show me
meet me in an alley
and i’ll slip you a twenty to punch me
just once

thirty years dancing the most grueling physical dance
i did the research, lady,
most of you don’t last five
fifteen is a good career


thirty years a ballerina
i just want to see you naked
quiz you about your scars and injuries
hear your politically incorrect stories from the early ’80s
let the horror and humanity of it wash over me
a wave of things i’ll never experience or fully understand

i never took ballet
hardly even like it
leapfrog over myself trying to translate the french phrases involved
but thirty years
you hooked me
you’ve got me

tell me everything

i can be interested in anything
if the person talking to me about it is sufficiently invested
hours of my life gone talking about
video games i’ll never play on consoles i’ll never own
crops i’ll never grow in fields i’ll never see
engines i can’t visualize with horsepowers i can’t put into context
romances starring people i’ve never met
i’ll listen if you love it
i love to listen
if you love to talk

but this

it’s almost mythical

and i ache for it


Regular Poem: A Rosebush for Emily 

10 Jul

there’s a moth
that nests in walnut trees
makes a web
in which its numerous young cycle through
their nascence and adolescense
and then sneak out in adulthood
leaving entire braches
silken and draping and drooping
with gauze-covered crispy vacated cocoons
the tree is no worse for it
but it has a look about it

it has a look about it
like the brick wall of a house
overgrown with ivy
the same ivy creeping
all the way around back
up the porch
engulfing like lava
slow and steady and so much

it has a look about it
like dead honeysuckle
which is itself
like a tumbleweed that doesn’t tumble
just a sad carcass on a wooden fence
instead of a ghostly drifter on a forgotten highway

it has a look about it
like a gnarly rose bush
all briar and no beauty
the red seeping out of the flowers
into the vine
or maybe the blood of its victims
pricked on its cacophony of thorns

it has a look about it
like rusty lawn ornaments
and gutters full of accidental compost
and faded furniture
and dust on tile

it has a look about it
of abundance then neglect then decay

it has a look about it

but those moths never hurt anybody

it has a look about it
but don’t we all

Regular Poem: One Goal at a Time

30 Apr

the next thing is
finding a dry cleaner
or maybe grapefruit spoons
no definitely the dry cleaner
how evening wear
rather too consistently for comfort
buys me a couple drinks chats me up
and ends up living in my spare bedroom

in my fantasy version
of the scenario
it’s a front for the russian mob
and the little old lady who runs it
also does alterations
she takes a shine to me
teaches me how to make borscht
and i accidentally get mixed up
in a crime ring for a while

the fantasy for the grapefruit spoons
is a lot less action
less ambiance
just magically
having all matching flatware
without the tedious step of
going through all my flatware
the fantasy quickly
devolves into boring children’s book
if you give a gal a grapefruit spoon

if you give a gal a grapefruit spoon
she’ll want butter knives with the same fleur-de-lis handles
and if you give her the butter knives
she’ll want a fancy butter dish

butter dish leads to gravy boat
gravy boat to tea set
tea set to good china
good china to crystal whiskey decanter

and if you give a gal a crystal whiskey decanter
she’ll surely
drink some whiskey and
if she drinks some whiskey
she’ll more than likely
buy more evening wear online

Regular Poem: Happy Anniversary

29 Apr

she wears
a skirt suit
to toss her bouquet
a girl pelts them with rice
who’s got on actual bobby socks
and they drive off
in who knows
probably a studabaker
her taking off her tiny white gloves
him wearing a smart tweed sport coat
and giving the camera a rather dumbfounded stare
but she’s grinning
somebody probably said something
kinda naughty
and he’s the sweetest gentleman
and she’s well
she’s my alto buddy
who laughs and elbows me in the ribs when i say naughty stuff

i could say
i wish i would’ve been there
felt the cool metal of those folding chairs
in 1963
and watched as these two souls joined together
and fed each other cake
and were so young and handsome and full of unknown tomorrows

but that would be a half lie
and for all the naughty stuff i say
that she enjoys and indulges me in
i’m not a liar

i like them now
i like knowing them at this section
of life
and fawning over black and white photos
and hearing stories about all the vehicles they owned
when they lived in germany
and all the people
they kept
ridiculously and fortuitously running into there

seeing the hindsight
reveling in the miracles
identifying the stray pieces that God has quilted together

that only people
who have lived long and well and abundantly
can show you

Regular Poem: Amateur Casting Agent

28 Apr

Delta Burke
is already playing you
in the Lifetime Movie of this event
playing out in my mind.

She’s thrashing through the set,
southern accent in Florida hurricane force,
Emmy-winning scenery chewing–
and it’s not just chewing;
it’s full devouring:
mastication, swallowing, digesting–
rambling monologues
strewn over several scenes
picking up and putting down
at jarring angles,
forced haphazardly into
other dialogue
and other scenes
disjointed and mysterious,
nonsensical but somehow satisfying diatribes,
testing the very fibers
of suspension of disbelief,
drawing taut the fibers
of vicarious rage.

By the end
(and you know how Lifetime Movies end:
all Suburbans crashing through bungalows
and women in dark glasses walking away from burning warehouses)
there’s no scenery even left.

It’s just Delta Burke
and the camera’s cold gaze
and a commercial for next week’s
Battered Army Moms at Christmas
or whatever.

But come on, lady.
At least I didn’t cast
Valerie Bertinelli
as you.
Then you’d never have
forgiven me.

But of course
I couldn’t
she was tied up with
Battered Army Moms at Christmas.

Regular Poem: Forgotten Modal Auxiliaries

27 Apr

it sometimes doesn’t even make the list
tragically omitted
leaving a silent but profound hole

Modal auxiliaries include
may, might, must, can, could, would, should, will, shall,
and blah blah blah grammar;
blah, blah, blah lexical–

i’ve stopped reading the article by now
screaming to the heavens

it’s a perfectly good
modal auxiliary

and we ought to bring it
from whatever ’30s grammar text
it’s been hiding out in
whatever dialogue
in black-and-white westerns
it’s been wearing a fake mustache in

i use it as much as possible
in my own speaking and writing

ought shall make a comeback!
(and so shall
the distinction between shall and will)

i’ll let others
adjectives used in place of
(i like the sound of it too much
real quick
rolls off the tongue
so well
and fits my dialect
i can’t help myself
forgive me
if you can)

i do my best
for our old pal
mostly just avoid situations
in which i’d have to say it aloud
it sounds so silly
people look at you funny
whom are you taking to the dance
ugh so pretentious
i opt for
what person are you taking to the dance
that way i don’t want to take a red pen
to my own naughty mouth
but i also don’t have to sound like a snob

but i ought not worry about that
i mean
i’m already saying ought on the reg
and shall sometimes too
but now that i’m thinking about it
i usually replace shall with am gonna
and use will traditionally

when i taught this stuff
for a living
it was a lot easier
getting away with
sounding different
(that adjective was correct because
the gerund sounding was copulative
see i still know

but now i’m in gen pop
and don’t want to have to explain myself
all damn day
i don’t get paid for that

i ought to do it for free
i will start with ought
(that’s the determinate will
bee tee dubs)
and see what happens

but it ain’t that big of a deal
rules change
language evolves
and people talk and understand each other

and i will use ought
(determinate will again)
because i like it
and i ought
to be able to do
what i want

Regular Poem: Hot Mic

26 Apr

I can think of better
ways to go,
but it’s right up there
in the top ten
being killed heroically foiling a kidnapping
and above
being mauled by a bear.

Her last words were,
“Is anyone else even singing?
All I can hear in my monitor
is my own throaty purr
in a popping void.”

Yes, that’s probably the best way
to go–
the speaker’s frayed wire
or whatever
conducting through
my Quik Trip drink
and lipstick
and I’m ash
and the worship pastor
says a short prayer
and goes on with rehearsal
as the EMTs haul
my still sizzling carcass
out of the sanctuary.

Witnesses say
she went out in a blaze of glory
singing glory to her Maker.
“It’s tragic,” the pianist mused,
“but somehow fitting.”
The combustion was limited
to one monitor stage left
and quickly contained.
Casualties: one alto
who could never remember
when to start singing harmony.

Much better
than being murdered
by NPR.

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